Monday November 19, 2018
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In Bihar battle, who cares about environment?

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Patna: For an election that can make or break the main contenders for power in Bihar, no one seems bothered about environmental issues.

The ever increasing pollution in the Ganges, people hit hard by arsenic, fluoride and iron content in drinking water, rising air pollution and falling rainfall — issues that affect millions — have been given a go-by as Bihar readies for the third round of the five-phase assembly election.

Political parties and top leaders are harping on economic development, job quotas, beef, shooting prices of food items as well as caste equations to woo voters.

Neither the BJP-led NDA of Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor the Grand Alliance of the JD-U, RJD and Congress led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appear to take up green issues.

With star campaigners from Modi to BJP president Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar to RJD chief Lalu Prasad trying hard to target youths by promising development including jobs to education, green issues have been missing from the campaign.

Yet, pollution is a major issue for millions all over Bihar.

In places like Patna, Buxar and Bhagalpur districts, pollution in the Ganges is worrying everyone.

According to Gangetic dolphin expert R.K. Sinha, over the years disposal of untreated waste has been the major cause for growing pollution in the river considered holy by Hindus.

Six major drains carry untreated water directly into the river in Patna.

“Any development cannot be sustainable by ignoring environmental concerns. If our water and air are polluted, what kind of development are we talking about? Development minus environment is like fish without water,” said Ranjeev, a green activist.

He warned that the neglect of green issues will cost the people of Bihar dear, particularly the poor, in view of climate changes.

“A large part of Bihar is in the Himalayan terai area, which is most vulnerable to climate change. The poor will face livelihood problems but surprisingly it is not an issue in the election campaign,” he said.

Another environment activist, Mahender Yadav, said some green issues were mentioned in some manifestos but were not raised at public rallies.

Rampati Kumar, CEO of the Centre for Environment and Energy Development(CEED), said environmental issues were the real challenge.

Rampati Kumar told IANS that the political class had forgotten green issues.

“It is a sad part of our elections. If only politicians raise green issues and talk about them, it will certainly create awareness and help the environment to take centre stage,” he said.

Ranjeev said climate change was going to hit agriculture.

“Today, the central government is stressing the need to import pulses to get over the pulse crisis. But when climate change will hit the farming communiy, how many food items can we import?”

Patna, Bihar’s biggest city, has over two million people and noise levels are very high. But few legislators appear to be bothered.

“The vehicular pollution is the biggest health hazard for all. But there is no cry for CNG in Patna,” said Ranjeev.

This year Bihar received nearly 29 percent deficit rainfall, leading to a drought like situation in over two dozen districts.

Thanks to pollution-induced weather changes, Bihar has already faced one drought after another.

“It is a bad sign. Bihar is still an agrarian state where most people depend on it for livelihood.”
(Imran Khan, IANS)

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India, elections
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the 'Global Mobility Summit' in New Delhi, India, VOA

India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

India, elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Continues To Stay Mum On The #MeToo Movement. Wikimedia Commons

“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

India,India, elections
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

India, elections
Modi Appeals For A Regional Front Against Terrorism, flickr

Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)